Category Archives: VMware

The Hot Aisle – Contain Your Cloud Natives with VMware’s Chris Sexsmith – Episode 29

Chris Sexsmith (@VirtualMittens) Sr. Manager of Field Enablement | Cloud-Native Apps at VMware (@VMware) joins us this week on The Hot Aisle to talk about VMware’s Cloud Native Application strategy and platforms (@cloudnativeapps) and share the greatness that they bring to the table with us and our listeners. Your hosts Brent Piatti (@BrentPiatti) and Brian Carpenter (@intheDC) break down AppCatalyst, CodeStream, Photon OS, Photon Machine, Photon Controller, Xenon, VMware Integrated Containers, Photon Platform, LightWave, and so much more.  Chris helps explain how you can embrace Cloud Native apps, utilize containers like Docker and Kubernetes, leverage Mesos, and much more on your existing VMware infrastructure and expertise – as well as exposing a different and beneficial way to round up your sprawling flock of containers.  Is VMware the new border collie of the container herding business?  Super Hot Topics? We Spit That! Knowledge For Days, We Produce That!

Have IT Your Way.

While I’m not a personal fan of Burger King, they have one thing right with their slogan:  “Have it Your Way”.

The consumerization of IT is more than complete.  And those companies that have already embraced it as such need infrastructure options that allow them to serve their customers needs appropriately.


2014 is the year of… Platforms.  Specifically, choice in diverse platforms.  No matter what way you want to build your application, there’s a platform that will allow you to do it.

Today at VMware Partner Exchange Conference (@VMwarePEX), a combined effort between unexpected fellows was announced:  The Super VDI 200 is a Converged Architecture co-developed by LSI, SuperMicro, Mellanox, and EMC’s ScaleIO Software Defined Storage platform.  Check out the early press peek here.  Clearly it’s marketed for VDI / EUC – the TCO darling of the performance and scale world – but it could be used for any number of similar reference architectures.  Dev / Test platforms, render farms, OpenStack, and a number of others instantly come to mind.

Each Super VDI 200 comprised of the following (Although, it’s all configurable if you want):

  • Dual Intel Xeon E5-2680
  • 384GB Memory
  • (2) 3.2TB LSI PCI-E Flash
  • (7) SAS HDD and (1) Intel 3700 100GB SSD
  • Intel Dual Port SFP+ 10GB & Intel Dual Port 1GB Ethernet
  • Dual Mellanox 40GB
  • IPMI
  • Redundant Platinum Level Power

Here’s a video that gives a bit more insight into the architecture and how it all pulls together as one combined architecture to meet your needs.

And, if you want to get a bit more in the weeds, head over to VMware for a bit more heavy reading:

Reference Architectures (Think outside the Horizon View box!)
Reference Architecture White Paper (SuperMicro + LSI Warp Drive + ScaleIO + Mellanox)
Solutions Brief (with Specific Performance Test Results)

Also, a big thanks to Dave Nicholson who was an integral part of teaching this to the EMCElect as well as working on the Converged Architecture.  He’s the most intriguing man in SDS!



VMworld 2013 – What to eat and where?

You’re in San Francisco, so NOW WHAT?  There are a million different ways to experience VMworld 2013.  You can maximize your inner nerd and fill your days with content, labs, tests, booths, and lectures – Oh my!  You can visit booths, gathering strategic intel on new products and taking their amazing schwag (I always pack a bag for this reason.  You can spend countless hours on the work you were supposed to leave at home, I guess, as well… 

Personally, I prefer to take a blended approach, but I tend to focus most of my additional energy consuming chasing down that elusive awesome out-of-town meal.  I’m not talking the free food during the hall crawls, the appetizers at the vendor “soirées”.  I’m talking downright belly filling awesome food to keep that fire going 24-7.  So, let’s eat!

You’re going to need some tools.  Social tools.  If you don’t like, use, or trust them… cool, but you better find a friend who does. 😉

Foursquare – (Apple, Android) – Location, Tips, Pictures, Popularity.  My favorite location-based app.  Check in at the location you’re at and get coupons, tips, etc regarding the spot.  I use the website and the app to research things around me or where I’m going to find rockstar spots!
Yelp – (Apple, Android) – Reviews, Pictures, Tips, Location, Popularity.  Primarily a review site, also has tips and location-based check-ins.
Foodspotting – (Apple, Android) – Pictures.  A great tool to look at pictures of food to inspire you in the area.  Drill down to a location, to an area, and I’m sure a few hundred other options.  Slide through pictures until you find something yummy and inspiring!  (integrates with Foursquare)
Instagram – (Apple, Android) – Pictures.  Another great tool for pictures, but a bit more.  Use this tool to follow the top 5 food bloggers in the area you’re going to and get some inspiration.  Once you find a spot, it ties to Foursquare, and lets you see every picture from that spot.  One of my favorite ways to eat.  (integrates with Foursquare)

You’re also going to want to use some websites:

Eater San Francisco – Eater.Com is a great site dedicated to finding what’s good, what’s hot, what’s coming, and stack-ranking them in different ways.  Hot Right Now, for example.  My favorite tool is the Eater 38 for each location.  the top 38 restaurants (in their opinion) – I use these on my “must see” list, and then buffer around it with the hot right now, and other top spots based on my personal preference.
San Francisco Gate – In Dallas, the local ‘rag that reviews restaurants, etc from a newspaper perspective is the Dallas Observer.  From a San Fran perspective, San Francisco Gate is the closest to this same feel.  Great information can be found for what to eat when you’re in X district of a big town.
Local Eats – (Apple, Android) – The app costs money, the site is free…  This is touted as a site that lists “where the locals eat”.  Not sure how they get their data, but it hasn’t fed me wrong YET.  Great lists for TOP X Food, but also Top 100, and top by neighborhood, etc.  Another great way to filter results.  Often I’ll find a location here, and check the current reviews on Yelp and Foursquare to solidify if it’s STILL good.
Zagat – (Apple, Android) – I didn’t list this above because I believe there’s a fee.  to me, the die-hard foodie, it’s worth it.  Some may not think so.  A score of 20 and above, you’ll be pleased.  24 and above, you’ll probably pay for it – but it will be mouth-watering good.
Google *duh* – Google has TONS of information in it.  For a quick cursory review, I tend to find a place I like and Google search it.  The location info will have reviews, pictures, AND a quick Zagat rating on it.  Great on your mobile device, on the go.

There are also alternatives around Facebook, Gowalla, and I’m sure a billion others – but I haven’t found them as useful, so they’re not getting mindshare here.

Do you have other methods you like to use to find the best place to eat as you travel around the county, please – let me know.   I’m always needing new tools to help find that next great meal.

I’m an EMC’er

Now that I ripped the band aid off (yes, I’m a ripper – I find it best to just get it over with!), I guess I should explain myself.

I worked at Heritage Auctions (HA.Com) for just shy of 10 years.  I can’t say enough great things about the opportunity, the company, the people, and especially the owners there.  Over the last 3 years of my illustrious career, I primarily focused my efforts as VP of IT on converging the data center.  After much research, debate, and negotiation a vast majority of our infrastructure landed on VMware for virtualization, Cisco UCS for compute, and EMC for storage.  And thus, the love affair began.

I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll say it again – thanks to great partners like Presidio, and a great friend in Tommy Trogden (@vTexan) – we were able to start the transformation of our data center into an amazing tool for the business.  UCS made compute sexy.  VMware is the leader in the hypervisor market for a reason.  And, EMC storage provided drastically needed performance, scale, and availability like we’d never had before.

One of our investments was in EMC’s VMAXe – thanks to some cunning sales work by Aaron Skogsberg (@dweebiak) we ended up with the 16th one off the line after the gigantic enterprise customers grabbed theirs up.  This VMAX was supposed to bring Tier1 to a new sector of customers, making it easier to use / manage / implement / install.  Everything he promised was true, and I was in love (not just with Aaron, but with EMC).   After being asked to be a reference customer, I got sucked into a whirlwind of events that included speaking to other prospective customers, doing roundtables, videos, speaking at Brian Gallagher’s ESD all hands!!!, two Chad’s Worlds, speaking at EMCWorld with Fidelma Russo, speaking at VMworld, and the list goes on.  I even got elected to be part of EMCElect in 2013!  I was in love with the EMC product, I was infatuated with the EMC culture, and I had made hundreds of great friends at EMC.

My staff joked constantly that I was going to leave any day, and I told them they were being foolish.  I had a great job, at a great company, with no reason to leave.  Why start over?  Why take the chance?  Besides, EMC has thousands of customers who love them as much as I do – I’ve seen them all pack into a Bruno Mars concert and come out wearing blinky schwag.  I’d received plenty of calls from recruiters, etc asking me to put myself out there, and I’d always said no, until now.  One day, I got a call asking me to interview at a manufacturer and I said no.  A few days later, knowing that my (now manager) Trevor Starnes was looking for someone, I started that fateful conversation.  The ‘ol “what if I….” and that was all she wrote.  A few interviews and a resume (that I hadn’t written in 15 years) later, and I was in.

I’m excited, and scared, and excited.  I haven’t felt more overwhelmed and useless in my life and I love it.  I’ve got so much to do, and it’s just day 2.

This change isn’t a sprint, but rather one of those awesome hardcore Ultramarathons.  I’m going to document my transition from VP of IT to PreSales Engineer and all of the things I learn between.  From perfecting the art of chest-bumping, to crying at night after some VP of IT tells you that your beloved EMC sucks.  As embarrassing as it is, coming from the Ops/IT world, I’ve already had to visit the local IT support numerous times to beg forgiveness as I’ve been locked out of every system I’ve tried to get into.  I think I’m gunna have to bring him some Hypnotic Donuts tomorrow to make amends.

My VMware vSphere Home Lab

The making of a glorious VMware Home Lab comes with so many variables and decisions that at times it felt like I was researching a million-dollar purchase.  Copious amounts of research, emailing, tweeting, and chatting went in to the finalizing of my lab, just in time for VMware vSphere 5.0!

Do I want to make this home lab out of data-center style equipment?  Certainly I don’t want servers that are decommissioned because the hardware and technology would be outdated and isn’t really comparable to our current environment.  Even if I could afford new data center style technology, the drawback to the data center equipment is size, and noise.  Scratch that. (note to Cisco, if you want to send me a UCS Blade Chassis w/ 4 blades in it, I will gladly install the power circuits, as well as suffer through the ensuing divorce…)

Giving up on building a datacenter in my house, we’re going traditional home lab… desktop size computers with lower power and low noise requirements.   Low power by virtue means low heat; which is essential in Texas where we suffered through countless 100+ degree days in a row this summer alone.  It’s hard enough to keep some parts of the house below 80, let’s not add a data center’s worth of heat load to that.  Keeping the machine ‘small’ and ‘attractive’ was also a concern because right now they sit on a buffet counter in the formal dining room.

I haven’t bothered to build my own computer in years, so my first choice was to go for a pre-built machine.  At the office our manufacturer of choice is HP, so I took a deep dive on their office class machines to see what I could find that supported 32GB of memory.  Unfortunately most of the machines that supported 32GB were expensive, large, noisy, and power hungry.  I might as well go the data center route, given all of that information. Scratch HP.

Resigned to the fact that I was going to have to roll my own system, I began bugging vTexan about home labs, and what he and his peers had implemented.  He pointed me to his blog as the end-all be all source for the perfect home lab of course…

He also sent me to a few more blogs:
– Jase McCarty – Home Lab Hosts – Just in time for vSphere 5
– Kendrick Coleman – VMware vSphere Home Lab – “The Green Machines”
– Jason Nash – vSphere Home Lab: Part 3 – Compute
– Jeramiah Dooley – PCs and Home Labs and Data Centers, Oh My… (Part 2)
– Chad Sakac – Building a Home VMware Infrastructure Lab

After reading these blogs, it became clear how elegant I could make a home lab that met modern technical requirements as well as meeting all of the limitations I had at home. I ended up doing a blend of the designs I saw along with a few ideas that Tommy (vTexan) and I had come up with to do it just a tiny bit different.  Jase McCarty had a great motherboard, it was a must have.  Jason Nash had a fantastic case, I only tweaked it a bit by buying a newer revision / model.

And, the glorious parts list:
(See the Newegg.Com Wish List “ESX System”)

Part Detail Qty Cost
Case LIAN LI PC-V352B Black 2 129.99
Motherboard TYAN S5510GM3NR 2 189.99
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1230 3.2GHz Quad 2 239.99
Memory Kingston 4GB KVR1333D3E9S/4G 8 42.99
Boot USB Lexar Echo ZX 16GB Micro 2 37.77
Cache SSD OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-60G 2 104.99
Power Supply OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W 2 64.99
Network Intel E144HTBLK Server I340-T4 2 265.53
Thermal Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound 1 11.98

At the time that I purchased this lab, the cost was $1082.23 per host.  Obviously there are some things where costs could be saved:  Case, Processor, USB, SSD, and the 4 port additional network card.  My OCD and need to have things be slightly extravagant allowed me to kick it up a notch in a few places.  Regarding the decisions on the motherboard and processor which are the most important, please see Jase McCarty’s blog because he did all of the legwork, and describes it so well I see no need to repeat it.

My personal touch to the home lab after leveraging all of the great ideas for the other expert bloggers really comes down to the USB boot drive, and the additional 4 port gigabit network card from a technical standpoint.  The case was simply aesthetic, but frankly so was the USB boot drive.   When designing the system, I knew that I wanted to boot off of either USB or SSD.  Since the case was all black and sleek-like, I wanted to put a low-profile USB card.  In comes the Lexar Echo ZX – a Micro 16GB USB drive that I could plug in on the side of the Lian Li Case, on the back of the motherboard, OR as I found out – on the USB port directly on the motherboard!  Yes, I know that I have to open the case to change this out, but I’ll cross that river when I come to it – this choice was about form, not function.


The Tyan motherboard has 3 1GB NICs on it already, one of which can also be shared for IPMI – which is great for a home lab.  Actually, now that I have it, I will almost guarantee I will never live without IPMI or some sort of remote management again.  I looked at doing an additional 2 port NIC, but then my need to really go all out kicked in again.   When thinking of replicating the office environment, I wanted to have enough NICs to really copy my Cisco UCS Blade setup, which has 6.  With a 4 port Intel Gigabit NIC I could have 6 (or 7, if I wanted to share the IPMI port) – so off I went to get the NIC.  I really tossed back and forth between the Intel E1G44HTBLK and the Intel E1G44ET2BLK when deciding on the 4port NIC (the latter was $150 more per card).
The relevant differences in regards to VMware and virtualization were that the ET2 supported VMDc and VT-d.
As far as I was concerned, neither of these were $300 worth of features I’d really leverage or have a chance to test; although over time maybe we’ll upgrade.  Keeping an eye on this one for now, but the E1G44HT was the card that suited me best today.

After all of the decisions have been made, it’s time to order.   I ended up purchasing from a blend of Amazon and Newegg, and of course that provided me with no state sales tax, and no shipping (Amazon Prime).  Two days later, the bounty of boxes inside of boxes arrived, and it was time to build.

A few pictures of me transporting my new lab home in the backseat of my rocketship…
Safe and sound on the Granite…

I will be following up shortly with posts regarding the switching, storage, and other things we’ve since done to the home lab.   Storage from Synology and Iomega, Switching from Cisco, and of course installing vSphere 5.0.


VMware VirtualCenter Command Line Options

We have been having some issues with the upstream switches in our environment, and one of the resulting joys we encountered was the enactment of our HA Isolation policy, which was set to Shut Down.   While trying to troubleshoot the switching issue we upgraded the switch stack which took about 12 minutes – and also removed connectivity to the default gateway of our 11 VM hosts.  When trying to test after the upgrade was complete, we tried to ping VirtualCenter as well as a few other hosts inside, and pounded our heads trying to figure out why all routing and switching was broken after a simple IOS upgrade.

After a bit of cussing and more digging, we found that we’d actually been up, but that every single VM was down (our VirtualCenter is a virt, as is the dependent DB).  No need to panic, we just need to dig around and figure out where they live, turn them on, and the rest will be easy.   When you’re in a hurry to fix a problem, right clicking on the vSphere Client icon in the Windows 7 taskbar to launch a new window 11 times isn’t fun or efficient.  Neither is typing in the name of each server (or IP), and neither is typing in the ridiculously cryptic root password.

That all led me to thinking about how to make it faster, and searching for VirtualCenter Command Line Options, Parameters, Switches, or whatever you might want to call them.  It wasn’t exactly easy to do, considering there is also a command line function for almost every part of well, everything VMWare.

I first found John O’Riordan’s Blog on vSphere Client Command Line Options which solved the problem of creating a nice and neat shortcut for each of the individual host servers when vCenter is down.  Although, I must admit that putting the root password into a .lnk file makes me want to reconsider my stance as a security professional.  I’ll figure out how to solve that later – for now they’re on an encrypted disk…

Now, how do I get into vCenter itself quickly?  This is where my friends over at TechTarget came to the rescue with their article on Configuring Single Sign-On (SSO) to log into VirtualCenter.

For the specific Hosts, the properties of the shortcut are as follows:

“C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\Infrastructure\Virtual Infrastructure Client\Launcher\VpxClient.exe” -i yes –s <hostname> –u <username> –p <password>

For the VirtualCenter, the properties of the shortcut are as follows:

“C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\Infrastructure\Virtual Infrastructure Client\Launcher\VpxClient.exe” -passthroughAuth -i yes –s <hostname>